This post was sponsored by Kidas and contains affiliate links where I may earn commission from purchases made after clicking.
If your kids are like mine, they LOVE gaming. They'd game all day (and night) if we let them.
Of course we know screen time should to be limited. They need fresh air and exercise. They have school and homework. They need to be kids and run around and play with siblings and friends in real life!
When it's gaming time, I'm happy to indulge because I know it's a true passion for them. But I don't especially want to sit there watching them play, monitoring every moment of their screen time. Do you??
Did you know 50% of kids who play video games have encountered online predators or cyberbullying? Shocking right?! More than 19 million American children have suffered from bullying or harassment in online multiplayer games. Terrified yet??
So how do we keep kids safer while gaming?
Kidas. That's how!
Kidas is an amazing software that helps monitor and analyze your child's in-game activity with 24/7 in-game voice and text scanning. They e-mail you a weekly report alerting you to any potential red-flags, from cyberbullying and hate speech to scams and predatory behavior. Or in my case, thankfully, letting you know all looks good and you have nothing to worry about (yet). I love that it's not only looking out for dangers, but also helping me get a better idea of the hours spent gaming and what times of day my kiddo is playing. I mean, how else would I know if he was secretly waking at 3am to play Roblox? HA! Thankfully, he's not... yet... Here's the most recent report we got from Kidas:
Very basically put, Kidas' proprietary technology has been trained on thousands of cases of real life cyberbullying and online predation, so it knows what words and phrases are cause for alarm. It helps parents monitor their kids' gaming activity in a non-hovering way. Don't worry - you're not spying. No need to be secretive about it. Let them know you installed it and what it will (and won't) be doing.
Kidas has a great FAQ section on their website - the top section is geared toward parents, and the next section is geared toward kids, answering questions they might have about it such as "Will my parents hear or see my conversations??" (Spoiler alert: no, we won't, and we don't need to - Kidas will be watching out for red-flag words and phrases for us).
It's a super quick download and installation (Windows-run computers only, even works on my son's ancient Windows 7 PC; not available for Chromebook or tablets). Seriously, just a couple of minutes. It currently works monitoring 75+ of the most popular games, including Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush, The Sms 4, and Adopt Me. They add games to their list frequently, and you're encouraged to message them with a request if your child is playing a game not currently on their radar.
They have a free 30-day trial and after that it's just $6/month or $60/year, with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. I mean, we've paid more for a coffee, am I right!? This is a DEAL!
So what are you waiting for? Sign up today and don't forget to use code USJAPANFAM10 to get 10% off!!
Moms, I think we can all agree that we love our kids more than life itself. We'd be lost without them. They're everything! But... sometimes... we need a break. Am I right?! A break from the monotony, from the pressure to be doing everything for everyone, from the whining and fighting. Basically, from being a mom. Needing a break doesn't make you a bad mom. I would argue in fact that taking a break actually can make you a better mom!
This break can come in the form of an hour at the gym, a mani pedi at the salon, or a kid-free lunch with some friends. Maybe you already do this regularly, maybe not, but if you're ready to take it to the next level, taking a full day and night away (or a full weekend, or gasp, a whole week!?), you might just find yourself fully recharged and ready to embrace those kids and your many duties at 100% again. Not just that, but getting away and out of your typical setting can give you a real chance to reconnect with yourself, to remember who you are beyond "mom", "wife", "domestic engineer". Remember when you actually had interests and hobbies, before they were taken over by your duties of meal planner, butt wiper, laundry doer, and booboo kisser. It's time to find and nurture those interests again! Let this blog post serve as your inspiration and motivation, a little nudge to treat yourself and plan your own mom getaway!!
I became a mother just over 7 years ago. It took me 5 years to take my first night away. I know... crazy! Our twins had just turned 2 years old, my husband was alwaysssss working, and I was so overwhelmed and stressed out. I had a mini breakdown (mommy tantrum??), got some amazing advice from my twin mom squad on Facebook (love them!!) and decided to heed that advice by booking a night away!! I went solo, to Atlantic City (weird destination, I know, but Tropicana hosted me and it was amazing - read about that trip and watch the video here).
Fast forward 2 more years and I was more than ready to do this again. Except this time, I didn't want to go alone. I wanted a relaxing but FUN momcation!!! So I reached out to the oh-so-amazing Crystal Springs Resort, because we had visited as a family over the summer and luuuuuurved it (see that blog review & video here), but I was itching to go back without kids! They offered to comp my stay again, in exchange for me covering my wonderful momcation! I invited one of my best mom friends, Rhianon of Brooklyn Boy Mom (together we have SEVEN CHILDREN!!! Me 3 and Rhi 4). See how much fun we had in this video and keep reading for more details!!
Why Crystal Springs for your Momcation?
LOCATION: Just a 90 minute drive from NYC, you'll find yourself in the beautiful northwestern New Jersey foothills at Crystal Springs Resort! It's not a bad drive either - I hadn't driven in over 6 years and was terrified but totally did it - easy peasy!! The hotel and grounds are simply beautiful (no wonder they host countless weddings, reunions, and conventions year round!).
Both times I've stayed at Crystal Springs Grand Cascades Lodge, we've been provided with a Suite, which I highly recommend. Having a full kitchen and living room is so nice and makes lounging around and being lazy at your home away from home a terrific option! Go out to one of their many restaurants when you want, or order pizza or make your own meals when feeling lazy. We stopped at a grocery store on the way up so that we'd have stuff for breakfast and snacks and what not. Our Suite had 1 king bed room, 1 huge bathroom (with L'Occitane toiletries - niiiiiice!!!), a pull out sofa in the living room, a fire place, a balcony, washer and dryer, and a full kitchen (well, minus a microwave - oops, we had to take our popcorn home!!)
They have many options to choose from, whether looking for quick and casual or fine dining for a special occasion. Between the visit with my family and this more recent momcation trip, I've eaten at every one of their restaurants except for their seasonal farm-to-table al fresco Chef's Garden (I'll be back next summer for that one, to be sure!!) and they're all outstanding! You can't go wrong!
Since we couldn't go to their 4-star Restaurant Latour last time (no kids under age 12 allowed), I wanted to make sure to check it out this time (reservations recommended, so plan ahead). Boy oh boy am I glad we did!! Their head Sommelier led the wine tour we took at 3pm, so we were even more excited to head over that evening and request the wine pairing menu ($55) with our 4-course meal ($115) . They also have 7-course, but despite each course being fairly small, we were stuffed by the end of our 2 hour dining experience!!
I'd never done a wine pairing before, and basically know nothing about wine. I actually hadn't a clue that wine choice can either make or break a food. Making the wrong pairing is comparable to drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth - yuck! The sommelier will choose the perfect wine for each of your courses (guests choose courses independently, the table doesn't have to agree), coming over to the table personally to explain about the wine and pour it for you. It was such an incredibly luxurious treat for me, who is more of a 2 slices of pizza and a hard seltzer once a month kinda gal. Because I'm not used to this kind of gourmet dining, I have to be honest that the menu was a wee bit intimidating, but our waitress was the sweetest thing and helped make us feel at ease while handling all of our many questions!
I'm sure the menu options change frequently, but for an idea of what to expect, here's what I ordered and the wines they paired for me (everything tasted as amazing as it looked!!!!):
Course 1: Roasted Crones (gnoccheti, fermented garlic, sunchoke) with Grgich Hills (Fume Blanc, Napa Valley California 2016).
Course 2: Venison (creamed turnip, preserved wild berries, juniper) with Cascina Fontan (Barbera d'Abla, Pieomonte Italy 2017). This was my first time having venison, and you never know what you're going to get with "gamey" meat, but it was absolutely delicious! To my unsophisticated palette it was like an extremely soft and delicious piece of steak.
Course 3: Rohan Duck (chestnut, persimmon, black seed vinaigrette) with Stokes' Ghost (Petite Sirah, Monterey County California, 2015). Talk about a piece of art, how about this plate!?
Course 4: Chocolate Ganache (coffee, buckwheat crumble, hazlenut), with l'Abricot wine and a platter of Turkish Delight! Yum. Just, omg, yum.
Oh, and we can't forget the most amazing and visually pleasing bread basket everrrrrr!!!! Hello activated charcoal bread, like, what!? So neat (and soft and yummy!!), with spreads like beet and garlic - ohmahgerrrrrd y'all!!!!!
We ended up doing 3 days and 2 nights at Crystal Springs on this most amazing Momcation. We stayed up "late" (still asleep before midnight), slept soundly without being pulled out of bed in the middle of the night to escort a little one to the bathroom, binged Netflix in bed, ate amazing food without hearing our kids whine about how disgusting it is, lounged poolside, sweat it out in the sauna and jacuzzi, cuddled with rescue puppies while kinda doing yoga but really just wanting to play with puppies, and even did our first TikTok ha!!!
Arrived home to a shockingly neat and tidy and quiet household - so impressed that my husband got laundry done and got the kids to clean up before I came home!! The kids were so cuddly and sweet, didn't throw a single tantrum for a whole hour after I arrived hahahaha!!! Seriously though, I feel so friggin' refreshed and ready to be the best mom I can be!!!! But I also can't wait to go on my next momcation...
So, are you inspired to book your own Momcation yet!?!? You really can't beat Crystal Springs for the destination - no matter what you're looking for, you'll find it there! They have really fun packages too such as "Robes & Rose Girlfriends Getaway", "Mom's Midweek Spa Day" and more! So get on it - gather some friends and get you on a mom getaway!! Be sure to check back in to let me know how it went (better yet, shoot me an email and maybe I can join)!!!
Whether you're pregnant and looking for your baby's first pediatrician, or you recently moved and are looking for a new pediatrician for your brood, it's not a simple task. You don't just look on the map and choose the nearest doctor. Oh no. There are a bazillion things to consider, and I hope my list will help you find the perfect match for your family! If I missed any key points, please do comment and let me know so I can add them!!
Actions to take when seeking out a Pediatrician:
Policies and Factors to Consider:
In a nutshell, I want to better protect my girls from the sun, and the creeps. Watch my short video, then keep reading and be sure to comment with your thoughts on girls' swimwear, the YouTube "adpocalypse" / "commentpocalypse", or your take on clothing gender norms!
Why are 95% of girls' swimwear options teeny one-pieces and bikinis? Sure, many styles are adorable. Seeing a toddler wearing a little retro-style bikini, I mean, come on, SO CUTE! But... they are not being protected, from the sun or the creeps out there. It's not 1980. In this day of social media, we're sharing photos and videos like crazy. We're sharing our own, and perhaps strangers are snapping away and sharing them without you even knowing it!
Have you heard about the latest YouTube drama? Not Momo, that's a different type of terrifying. No, I'm talking about the pedophile wormhole ring that was discovered. Apparently they're commenting with time stamps of their favorite moments and sharing videos of girls doing gymnastics, toddlers at the water park, you name it. Innocent videos. Of kids. It's sickening.
So, YouTube, to protect children, or advertisers, or both, all of a sudden slammed on channels featuring kids. Demonetizing videos that show a bit too much skin, or touch on certain topics. And turning off comments on millions of channels, mine included. It's annoying, but they did it for a good reason. And it's eye opening. One of our vacation videos had about 30 seconds of me holding our baby twins in swim diapers. Demonetized. I hadn't had any odd time stamp comments, but does this mean it'd been targeted by the creepers? Or is it something Advertisers might not want to be associated with? Who knows... But it got me thinking.
Hoping to protect my girls from both the sun and creeps (online and in real life), I went looking for a cute tankini - board short type set. Couldn't find ANYTHING out there. Ended up getting the cute rash guard and shorts set shown in our title banner (affiliate link - only $15, great deal!!), and below are some other pretty good options that friends shared with me, but frankly, I'm still hunting for a great "girly" belly-covering tankini & board short option!! If you know of one, please comment below!! And if you're a clothing manufacturer, get on it, this is a niche that needs to be filled!!!
Here are some brands I've found with more conservative / skin covering options for girls:
WINTER IS COMING (or already here for some of you)!!! But have no fear, with the right winter gear for babies, toddlers (and care giver), it'll be a breeze!! To make it as easy as possible for you, I've rounded up my tried and true favorite winter products for you right here, as well as a few random hacks at the bottom of the post!
(Affiliate links included - you don't pay more, but I may get a small commission to help fund the blog, it's a win win!)
1. STROLLER BUNTING
You need a good stroller muff or bunting if you'll be pushing baby around outside at all this winter. It's basically a big sleeping bag that the stroller's straps go through and you can quickly zip open when you're indoors shopping or letting your baby nap in your entry way. JJ Cole BundleMe (in infant and toddler size) seems to be the most popular, probably because of the great price point ($35-60 new, and about $15-25 used), and it's what we've been using and loving for almost 6 years! The "Urban" style is wind-proof and water resistant. 7AM Enfant buntings seem to be the better choice if you're going to be in regular extreme cold (let's say, Canada, for example), and are loved by all who use them, but they cost quite a bit more.
2. STROLLER GLOVES
If you're going to be pushing a stroller around on the daily in temperatures under 50 degrees, stroller gloves are a necessity in my book. They make it so easy to seamlessly go between pushing the stroller, handing baby his binky, texting, refilling snacks, wiping snotty noses etc, since you're just slipping your hands in and out of the muffs that are strapped onto the handle bar. No need for actual gloves! 7AM WarmMuffs are the best, hands down (pun in tended LOL), a permanent fixture on my stroller from November through March!
3. Stroller Shield / Rain Cover
A great stroller cover is not just great in the rain and snow, it actually creates a beautifully warm green house type atmosphere for your baby!! My little ones were chronic sock / shoe / hat / glove tossers, so a rain cover on super cold days was essential. Our favorite brand is Manito (see my full review here), because it's made of a nice waterproof nylon with plastic windows that zip open and shut, meaning you can take your kids in and out of the stroller without having to remove the cover, and you can also zip it open to hand them a snack, when you're move indoors, or if the kids are getting too warm (picture that love scene in "Titanic" - it can get quite toasty and actually steam up the windows in that rain cover LOL). They have single (in alpha & plus for strollers where the back reclines such as City Mini & G-Luxe, and beta for strollers where the seat is reversible and rotates via lever, such as UppaBaby Cruz & Vista ) and twin (for side by side strollers).
4. Baby-Proof Gloves
Mittens or gloves that are toddler proof? SNOWSTOPPERS!! They go all the way up to the elbow (under the jacket), so they keep snow out and toddlers can't pull them off, hurrah!!! SnowStoppers also make great super tall snow boots. Check out my full review of both the mittens and boots here.
5. Nasal Aspirator
Whether they just have a runny nose from the cold, their first cold, RSV, the flu, or allergies, you need to invest in a good nasal aspirator! My personal favorite is BabyVac - it hooks up to your vacuum hose - valves control the suction power so it gets out all the buggies but isn't painful or dangerous, and don't worry, the boogers get trapped in the small device and don't go into your vacuum. See my full review here! Others prefer Nose Frida, which is powered by your own mouth. You'll also need saline drops, to make sure it's super moist and easy to suction. Suctioning right after a steamy bath can help, too.
6. Baby Wearing Winter Gear
If baby wearing, you'll want to get a baby wearing coat or baby carrier cover. They'll make life easier. If just wearing here and there you can simply throw a pair of tights and leg warmers under kiddo's pants, or put them in a snow suit, or wrap a long warm blanket around you and the carrier. Jolly Jumper Snuggle Cover is probably the cheapest of the covers, and seems to be quite popular, though I've never tried it myself.
So, those are my favorite winter gear for babies and toddlers! Have you used any? Do you have any others to recommend? Drop a comment below!!!
And I'll leave you with my final tip for surviving winter with littles. This is especially for stroller-pushing city-dwellers. Those corners after a snow storm? They can be a DOOZY!!! First, you need a nice stroller with decent sized wheels (that handy umbrella stroller you have? yeah right, put it away til spring). To get over the snow mounds, the trick is pulling the stroller BACKWARDS. Yep. You'll look a fool but it's the only way. Good luck out there, parents!!!
With Mother's Day right around the corner, I wanted to do something special. I decided to put together a YouTube montage video and asked friends and followers to submit clips on anything at all related to motherhood or Mother's Day. I'm so so so happy with how it turned out - it's heart felt and fun, it'll make you cry, laugh, and probably want another baby!! HA!! Check it out here:
What do you think? Which comment hit home the most for you? What's your most memorable or disgusting mom moment? Leave a comment below (and don't forget to like and share the video)!!!
Huge shoutout to all the moms who opened up and contributed!! Check out their YouTube channels and blogs linked below:
It just dawned on me. I have officially been pregnant or breastfeeding for the past 5 years straight, with only a 1 month break around January 2015. Like, whoa. The twins are nearly 18 months old now and I've been weaning them gradually. We're at the point where we may have already had our last nursing session - it's kind of hard to ever know when it's really your last, and we may have already had it.
It's totally bitter sweet, since these are my last babies, knock on wood, and as the last drop of milk flows from my body to theirs, my days as a Baby Growing Factory will officially be over. I simultaneously want to shout from the rooftops and celebrate with a couple bottles of champagne, while sobbing uncontrollably.
The truth is, as hard and overwhelming as it can be at times, it's been equally awesome. I loved being pregnant. Even at 39 weeks with twins, being the size of a house with debilitating hip pain, it is the most amazing experience you can ever imagine - creating and growing life in your body. Every hiccup and stretch, even every kick to your bladder, it's simply breathtaking (in the good and bad way!!). Likewise, birth, though excruciating and disgustingly mortifying (yes, please, let's have a dozen strangers watch babies eject from my vagina, thank you, this is such fun!!!), is incredibly beautiful and life changing. It's truly an experience I wish everyone (who wants it) could have, and leaves my heart weeping for friends who are not able to.
And breastfeeding, ohhhhhh breastfeeding. "Breast is best" and all that. Well, there is a lot of pressure put on women to do this, and I want to say it's not for every woman - either because she can't or it just doesn't work well for her or her baby, and there is nothing wrong with that. FED IS BEST!!! With that said, breastfeeding was an incredible journey for me, with both my son and my girls, and I feel blessed that it worked out for us. It certainly had its highs and lows, though. The painfully cracked nipples and anxiety over whether or not they were getting enough in those early days. The soaked nursing pads and fear of having to nurse in public! But then, suddenly, it all became so easy and beautiful. Having the ability to calm a crying baby isntantly, nourishing them, bonding with them in a way no other person on this earth could. Not having to worry about packing enough formula or cleaning bottles. Over a cumulative 3.5 years of breastfeeding, I have nursed my babies pretty much anywhere imaginable - in a bar, on planes and subways, at the pool... I could write a breastfeeding version of Green Eggs and Ham!
But, here I sit, with 1800 wonderful, crazy, painful, beautiful days of pregnancy and breastfeeding behind me. They made up such a huge part of who I was and who I am as a mother. As I get further away from these days of my life, they will likely become fuzzy distant memories, so, I want to pay tribute and immortalize them with some photos of my journey below, and then, when I'm ready, it's about time to organize some sort of booze-filled getaway weekend with my girl friends. BECAUSE I FINALLY CAN!!! Talk about a silver lining :)
Collage of my first pregnancy, my son, who made me a mother! From the first sonogram to our first time breastfeeding in public!
Collage of my second pregnancy, my twin girls, who made our family complete :)
And of course I have to include in this tribute the best pregnancy keepsake ever: the stop motion of my twins featuring their adorable big brother!!
Did you do anything to commemorate being done with pregnancy and/or breastfeeding? Is it something you look forward to or dread?? Share in a comment below!!
Sure, chocolate and flowers and jewelry are nice. But they're all about romance, and commercialism. And that's not what MOST moms really want, or need. But what do moms actually want for Valentine's Day, birthdays, Mother's Day, or any day, for that matter?? I asked and you answered, check out this hilarious montage from YOU AWESOME MAMAS!!! Turns out nothing says love like changing some stinky diapers while mama naps, has coffee, and showers in peace!
Huge shoutout to the lovely, brave, and hilarious mamas who contributed to this video!!
How about you? What do you want for Valentine's Day? What have been some awesome (or not so awesome) things you've received?? Leave a comment below!!
Don't forget to like, share, and subscribe to my YouTube channel - I do lots of fun montage videos like this as well as family-friendly travel, product reviews, and cute stuff featuring my 3 littles!!
When you grow a human in your belly, things change. Some things are temporary and some are permanent. From stretch marks to hair loss, many women struggle with low self-esteem over their new "mom bod," and this saddens me greatly.
To me, each tiger stripe is a reminder of your most wonderful accomplishment. That remaining "baby bump" brought life and completed your family. So, acknowledge your imperfections, stay fit and eat mindfully, but embrace your mom bod for what it is: beautiful, strong, loving, and amazingly awesome!!
With the help of a few mom friends, I've put together the following video to encourage moms to love themselves and their bodies. I hope you'll help the #MyMomBodIs movement by commenting below and sharing this blog post and video! Thank you!!
As soon as you discover you're having twins, you start googling... How big will I get? How much should i eat? Will I have to get a c-section? What will my belly look like after twins? Well, for the latter question, one catch phrase comes up again and again... TWIN SKIN!
Twin skin is basically saggy wrinkly skin that will never bounce back to its former taught self, no matter how much weight you lose or how many crunches you do. Not every twin mom will get twin skin. Some moms will bounce back to their pre-pregnancy bodies in a split second, without a stretch mark or ounce of fluff to show for it. Good for them... but most of us are not quite so lucky.
Some of the unluckier moms will even end up with Diastis Recti, which is a permanent separation of the abdominal muscles. The abs separate during pregnancy, but in some cases, especially multiples pregnancies, the muscles never go back together. This can leave you looking 6 months pregnant for... forever! A physical therapist can guide you through certain exercises that may or may not help, some only find a fix with surgery. On the bright side, they can couple that with a tummy tuck - et voila beautiful belly (minus the hip to hip scar, that is).
We're all so excited to watch our bellies grow through the pregnancy, I even made a stop-motion video about it!
But the belly that remains after your little ones are delivered is not quite so exciting. For the first month or so, you still look very much pregnant. I remember being on the elevator one week postpartum and my neighbor asking in disbelief, "You haven't had them yet!?" Ugh. I nearly socked her!
The fact is, it takes a while for your very overstretched uterus to shrink back, and all the extra fluid and bloating to ease away. But sure enough, little by little your belly disappears, leaving small reminders of the amazing journey your body has been through to carry and birth two beautiful miracles. So, yes. I have twin skin. I have stretch marks. But you know what? I'll take 'em, because I also have the most amazing little twin girls in the world!! And on top of that, my squishy pug-like belly provides endless amusement for my toddler. HA!
Have you learned to embrace your postpartum body, or are you struggling to come to terms with it? Share in a comment below!
UPDATED April 18, 2017!!!
I've been using Nerium Firming Body Contour Cream nightly for 3 months now, it's made a pretty dramatic difference on my twin skin!! It's not gone, but definitely better! I waited until 15 months postpartum, down to pre-pregnancy weight, so my body did all it could do naturally. No more weight to lose, haven't been working out, and still have about a 1-2 finger gap in my diastasis recti. I didn't edit the pix. It's a true before and after, with only the cream at work. Pretty cool, huh? I got my cream free for review, but you can reach out to the rep to try out her Nerium goods here!
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1), focusing on fun and honest product and travel reviews, saving moms time finding the best for their families! Find what you need in the menu bar or search section above!